Manga Quick Information
Planetes has provided us with a cast of very different and interesting characters. Though on average the story understandably focuses more upon the protagonist Hachimaki, and his journey to achieve his dreams, this volume is devoted to some of the other key characters. It is a welcome change and addresses some points in the story that could have easily been forgotten about, illustrating the care Yukimura puts into his work.
The first couple of chapters focus on two different characters, one old and one new. The first chapter introduces us to a man named Danshaku, nicknamed 'The Baron' by his peers. Wearing a sleeveless denim jumpsuit, whilst sporting a pompadour and glasses, his look evokes the hallmarks of rebellious youngsters of 1950s America, or the punks of the yakuza during the 80s and 90s. However, that notion couldn't be farther from the truth as he is in fact an alien from a planetary system called 'Retikle', now living among humans collecting debris, trying to understand humans and live among them.
The second chapter puts the spotlight on the director and genius engineer of the Von Braun Project, Werner Locksmith, having to face the families of the workers killed in the Von Braun Project Accident on the Moon two years ago at the funeral. With his media reputation in tatters, and facing abuse from the families, Locksmith is unfazed by any of it as he departs, indicating his impenetrable cold-hearted nature is still intact. However, there is one more grave he must visit, where an unexpected and dramatic encounter ensues.
The rest of the book, and the main focus of this volume, is on the female badass captain of the Toy Box 2, Fee Carmichael. A debris collector veteran of over ten years, she has seen it all. Here she is hassled by Tanabe over what seems to be a very large piece of debris simply floating in space, and why Fee does nothing about it. Tanabe is baffled by the fact that they are not allowed to collect some debris. What she doesn't realise is that the object is 'official debris'; in fact it is an orbital mine, a strategic bomb that drifts in space once launched, waiting until its target is nearby. Though Yuri knows this, he still questions their purpose as debris collectors when they are ordered not to collect certain objects and just leave them in space. Fee replies that debris collectors and indeed all workers are no longer 'wolves' with desires and volition, but are just lap dogs for the company, whose only role is to follow orders. Yuri tells Fee that she is acting weirdly. Fee at first rejects that, but then proceeds to relive a flashback of her last visit to Earth and her family. There she comes to a revelation from her nine year old son which inspires her to reflect upon her past, and rekindles her rebellious nature once again.
Meanwhile, an orbital mine destroys a US military transport vessel, and threatens to spark the first ever Space War. What is even more dangerous are the potential beginnings of the Kessler Effect from the debris now floating in space and the potential debris from a possible war, which in theory would result in the end of the world. The only problem is that it is exactly that - a theory - and a theory that the warmongers in the military do not believe in.
However, Fee feels differently, and with her mean streak back, she proceeds to collect debris against orders from her superiors, opposing the military in the process, to try to stop the Kessler Effect from happening.
This volume is actually shorter than previous Planetes volumes as the original Japanese edition has been split into two parts for the English release. Even though some may fret over that, it's only a small negative as the quality of material doesn't suffer at all, with Yukimura again balancing realistic hard science fiction with strong character development very well. This volume also presents a couple of special perks. One is the inclusion of more colour pages at the start of various chapters. The second is a very welcome 30 pages of supplemental information about the world of Planetes. It explains the vast array of issues raised in this series, whilst also explaining the science behind the technology; all in a very understandable and coherent manner. It illustrates just how relevant this story is to us, as nearly all the issues and science behind it are simply calculated extensions of the way things are on Earth today, providing a very realistic and possibly accurate portrayal of what may happen in the future. Not only that, but it also has the power to educate by giving a basic understanding of the various parts of science that are relevant to the manga, which is unique and great for anyone interested in science, politics, economics, and even sociology. It also shows the sheer commitment and devotion that went into this series from the author, Makoto Yukimura; a remarkable feat that one cannot help but admire and respect greatly. Finally, there are diagrams of the various key pieces of machinery featured in the manga, which are a very nice touch.
In Planetes Vol. 4 Part 1 we see the first inclusion of an extraterrestrial being, illustrating the difficulties of outsiders understanding others' social and cultural norms, and their attempts to become accepted in society. We also see a focus on the other key characters of the story, where issues present include facing the consequences of your actions, and regaining a part of yourself that had somehow been lost along the way. All of this adds welcome character development to an already rich and riveting story, allowing us to experience their thoughts and feelings, as well as granting the ability to care about them as well. Coupled with the very dire predicament that Fee is left in at the end of the book, the stage is set for a great finale in the next volume where the world of Planetes may end for good.
|Score:||9 out of 10|
|Date Published:||Fri, 22 Apr 2011|